Shunt. Back in the day they were cool as fuck. Back then we all were. Front runners of the immersive theatre vibe, and alternative cabaret legends they ended up taking over a huge space under London Bridge station. For a glorious year or two the early commuters would see rangy young men and women dressed as glitterchickens staggering wide eyed from a door near the tube barriers, still in the night before. “Some sort of bordello,” they might tut, before pulling up their swivel chair and pouring a bit more of their soul into a CRT monitor and questioning their life choices but making actual money in the process.
That sort-of bordello – it was a huge damp catacomb under the trains, lit feverishly, adorned with changing artwork. Walk down the corridor. See the strange lights. What the hell is that person doing upside down in that dark room? Is that a penguin? Oh. A bar! And a stage – a platform for experimental burlesque fire dancing glory. A cavernous space, made and filled by the work and the life of the people who dreamed in it. Nobody really making money, but making life. My memories of evenings there are clouded and colorful, blurry and uncertain of time. I know I’m not alone in saying that I still feel a pang when I walk past that shut door, so near to the base of The Shard. A gateway into another world – a world where dreams were born. “Let’s make a thing…” And so many things were made and some of them grew legs and ran. Alliances still remain, pieces of art, of music, of staggering ephemeral beauty. But slowly, surely, they drew their plans against us. And then it was shut down and we had the party at the end of the world and fuck it was a hell of a night and I staggered out to the commuters at about 6 and bought a coffee with the glitterchickens. And then the closure was appealed and the doors opened once again for a brief blast of a moment. But grey mist and souldeath clutched their papers and hated enough to care. And so it fell away at last and The Shunt Vaults became another shining memory in an ever growing constellation, a closed door on an empty space. Back to the rats.
Cut forward something like 8 years. God. And I notice Shunt are doing a one night “Twelfth Night” thing. It’s free. It’s at The Curtain Hotel in Shoreditch. I’m in. I send it to Mel. She’s in. It’s a no brainer.
A big downstairs area in hipster Central. And loads of people. It’s packed here, and alive. I’ve visited the Magi. I’ve seen the star. I’ve had gold, frankincense and myrrh. I’ve eaten some pistachios. I’ve found the cake but perhaps I shouldn’t have. And I’ve had some interesting ideas. Then I’ve been invited to see the baby Jesus.
Now I’m downstairs. Mel brought her cards with her. She’s reading tarot and there’s already a queue. A Tom Waitsalike sings next door with a Bjorkalike, and I feel too old to stay in that room because the bass is turning my poor brain into jelly. I had two years of tinnitus and I’m not up for that fucker recurring, party or no party. I’m not the glitterchicken anymore dammit. I’m the grounded guy in a suit who is a secret glitterchicken. I did get hit on though, which made me think I should wear this three-piece more often.